I’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a pulse and internet access that isn’t aware of Zion Williamson in some capacity. His Duke teammate, RJ Barrett, and Murray State’s Ja Morant are well known as well by even the casual college basketball fan, but what about the rest of the draft class of 2019? This article will highlight 10 of the next best prospects, starting with Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter.
De’Andre Hunter (Virginia) – Guard
After being redshirted his freshman year, Hunter enters the draft following his second season at Virginia. Fresh off an NCAA Championship, Hunter is hungry and ready – his long stay at UVA has ensured that. Over the course of his collegiate career, he has developed into one of the best point-of-attack defenders in college basketball as well as developing his shot into a thing of beauty. The guard stands at 6’7”, so his shot will undoubtedly be more than effective if he falls into the right NBA system. Hunter had a monster NCAA Championship game, putting up 27 points in 44 minutes played. While one game certainly doesn’t define a player, it’s clear to see Hunter shows up in big moments. If there’s anything that’s concerning about Hunter as he transitions to the NBA, it’s his lack of assists. The Virginia guard has averaged just 1.6 assists per game over his two years at Virginia, which is a little alarming. That being said, expect to see De’Andre Hunter go in the top 5.
Darius Garland (Vanderbilt) – Guard
The Nashville native hasn’t played a game since last November, but he remains a top talent in this year’s draft. A torn meniscus is what caused Garland to hang up his shoes just five games into his freshman season at Vanderbilt. However, Garland proved all he needed in those games to cement his spot high in the first round. Averaging 16.2 points per game with a smooth .537 FG%, there’s no doubt Garland thrives as a scorer. He bolsters a .478 3P% showcasing his ability to shoot from all over the court. As the 3-ball continues to dominate the NBA, there’s no doubt his ability from beyond the arc will significantly benefit whichever team he lands on. What comes with season ending injuries so early on, though, is uncertainty. In the five games he played, Garland didn’t face any NBA level point guards, so his defensive abilities still remain unclear. Expect to see a team take this gamble and select Garland in the top 10.
Cameron Reddish (Duke) – Forward
Reddish didn’t spend too much time in the spotlight having two of the biggest names in the draft as teammates, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an elite talent in and of himself. Cam, who spent most of his life playing point guard up until this season with Duke, flourished in an offense where he got much less touches than he’s used to. Falling back into more of a supporting role on this team oozing with talent, Cam was still able to take over when needed. In Duke’s comeback win against Louisville in February, Cam hit 4 threes in the last 10 minutes of the game to aid his team in winning. The 6’8” forward will fit in swimmingly with the position-less NBA we have seen forming over the last few years. Whether it be in the post or on the perimeter, Reddish is able to effectively attack (and incredibly stoically at that). He’s proven he’s able to defend any position on the floor. Expect to see him go in the top 8.
Likely to Land: Memphis Grizzlies
Best Fit: Cleveland Cavaliers
Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) – Guard
After a devastating loss to Virginia in the National Championship game, Jarrett Culver looks to expand his horizons in the NBA. Coming off a relatively poor performance in his last game with Texas Tech going 5-22 (22.7 FG%), it will be interesting to see how Culver fares in the league. At Texas Tech, there was no debating he was the star of the team, averaging 18.5 points per game and 3.7 assists in his 2018-19 season. Culver was everywhere on the floor, picking up the pieces of his less than elite team. This led to him being viewed as an incredibly productive player, and the fact of the matter is in the NBA less will be expected of him. Not less production, but he won’t have to worry about as many different facets of his team. Will this lead to him honing in on his already strong skill set? Or will less responsibility have an adverse effect? Only time will tell but expect to see him go in the top 5.
Likely to Land: Chicago Bulls
Best Fit: Memphis Grizzlies
Coby White (University of North Carolina) – Guard
White, who was once anticipated to be a mutli-year player at UNC, is now projected to go in the single digit picks of the first round come draft day. This change in stock is 100% in reaction to the stellar season the young guard was able to put together. Averaging 16.1 points per game, White broke Michael Jordan’s freshman scoring record at UNC. He’s an electric player and an elite scorer without being a ball-hog, averaging 4.1 assists per game. Going from off the radar to a top 10 pick is quite a feat, and we likely haven’t seen everything White is capable of doing on the court. It would have been nice to see him play later into the tournament, but with UNC exiting in the Sweet 16, we’ll just have to wait until October rolls around. Expect Coby to be taken in the top 8.
Likely to Land: Washington Wizards
Best Fit: Los Angeles Lakers
Jaxson Hayes (Texas) – Forward
Voted the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, all 6’11”, 220lbs of Jaxson Hayes will be highly sought after come draft day. Averaging 10 points and 2.2 blocks per game, he’s one of the best big men this draft has to offer. It’s worth noting, though, that he didn’t record a single double-double (in points/rebounds) throughout the entire season. Stats aren’t everything when evaluating a player for an NBA team, but they certainly don’t hurt. His potential alone is enough to cement his spot high up in the first round of the draft, but like any gamble in sports, we can’t know if it will pay off. It’s reassuring, though, that he was able to lead Texas to their first NIT victory since 1978. The young man has a competitiveness to him, but he could certainly use an improvement in his rebounding. I have no doubt there are numerous teams that are certain they can coach this kid to greatness. He’ll likely go in the top 10.
Likely to Land: Atlanta Hawks
Best Fit: New Orleans Pelicans
Bol Bol (Oregon) – Center
Perhaps less talked about than most players on this list is Oregon’s very own Bol Bol. After his season ending injury having played just nine games for the Ducks, his draft stock seemed to have plummeted quite a bit. This is perplexing to me, though, because he stands at a towering 7’2” and has UNREAL numbers. In his nine games in the 2018/19 season, he averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. His agility and quick hands establish that he won’t have a problem transitioning to a higher intensity defense in the NBA. Add this to his staggering height, and you’ve got yourself a rim protector. It’s also worth noting that Bol boasted a .520 3P% – yes, 3 pointers, in his 9 games played at Oregon. A big man who is able to be used as situational shooter is a hot commodity, and it would be a shame if Bol Bol wasn’t taken in the top 10.
Likely to Land: Charlotte Hornets
Best Fit: Dallas Mavericks
Nassir Little (University of North Carolina) – Forward
After averaging just 18.2 minutes and 9.8 points per game, Nassir Little might not have been what UNC was hoping to get out of the #3 recruit. While Little seemed to struggle in his first and only collegiate season, he did show bursts of greatness. Standing at 6’6”, he would often get lost between being a wing and a big man and didn’t really solidify himself as either one. The NBA, though, is a different story, it being a league that puts a high importance on versatility, making stars out of players who live in this sort of no-man’s land Nassir found himself in this season. His draft stock is highly debated, some mocks showing him going in the top 10, others showing him going in the late first round, but Nassir Little could just be a high-value, lower radar pick that surprises everyone. I’m willing to chalk his last season up as a fluke and would like to see him go in the top 10. That being said, he may go far later in the first round.
Likely to Land: Utah Jazz
Best Fit: Washington Wizards
Romeo Langford (Indiana) – Guard
Langford put up an impressive 16.5 points per game despite struggling with a torn ligament in his hand throughout the season. The Hoosiers had a disappointing season as a whole, going just 19-16 and missing the NCAA tournament, but hopes for Langford are still high. It’s likely that this season we didn’t get to see Langford perform at a level he’s truly capable of. He gets to the basket well and has tremendous speed, the only piece that’s really missing is his shot, and at the NBA level he will undoubtedly have coaches there to ensure this gets addressed. At 6’6” with bursting speed and staggering strength, he’s comparable to Ben Simmons, even down to the inability to shoot. Unfortunately, his defense isn’t a thing of beauty either and that will also have to be addressed. Langford is a bit of a project, but he will likely be taken in the top 13.
Likely to Land: Miami Heat
Best Fit: Orlando Magic
Brandon Clarke (San Jose State / Gonzaga) – Forward
Brandon Clarke, the 6’8” freakishly athletic big man from San Jose State and eventually Gonzaga, has made the most of his time playing college hoops. He’s grown as a player and now is a top draft prospect based on his athletic play and preposterous stat-line from last season (16.9 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists.) Barely recruited out of high school, Clarke is the hard-working type that you just can’t help but root for. He’ll be slightly undersized to play as a big man in the NBA, but somehow that doesn’t feel like a problem with him. In his 2018/19 season with Gonzaga, he averaged 3.2 blocks per game which shows he’s more than capable of protecting the rim. Clarke embodies what it truly means to be an electric player – bringing high intensity to the game whenever he takes the floor. His defensive ability will translate seamlessly into the NBA because what he lacks in size, he will more than compensate with raw athleticism. Expect to see him go in the latter half of the top 12.
Likely to Land: Los Angeles Lakers
Best Fit: Los Angeles Lakers